When Dolphins Bite: 5 Things to 2015

I look forward to a new year.

As I told my son, it’s a new start in more ways than one.

  1. I’m almost finished with graduate school.

The end is in sight. It feels like I’ve been in college again for more than a decade, which makes me wonder how people go to school straight from earning a BA to a Master’s degree. (I had five years between my degrees.) But, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from what my husband calls “your semester from hell” is you will have reinvent and prove yourself again and again.

For the first two years of graduate school, I had no doubt my particular college had my back in all matters because I worked so hard and well with them. But, I learned with the other half of a different college on campus, my professional relationships were not as well-formed. I would have to prove myself – after I lost control of my anger and depression – to the one person who controls a signature on my degree, who lacks faith in me, and provides the certification to make me better at what I love doing

I had one picture that brought me back down to Earth for this degree.

My children, husband, and I homeless …

2. Postpartum depression is no joke.

So, why be honest about all of this information?

Because, as Elsa sings in “Frozen,” “Let it go.” Overall, I’ve learned to control and temper my depression and anger. I’ve written and worked out, but after the birth of my daughter, my body changed completely. Only recently with the gradual weaning of breastfeeding has my energy returned.

I experienced extreme exhaustion and health issues with breastfeeding and postpartum, but I was fortunate by the middle of the year to find a doctor who discovered the problems at hand. She got me back on antidepressants and special vitamins, so I could continue breastfeeding.

(And, then she moved away.)

But, I could not shake off the feeling in the fall semester of graduate school that I was wrestling with sharks. My husband says, “They’re really dolphins, but people forget that even dolphins bite.” I said, “One in particular is a shark. This one smells blood.”

3. Autism needs to be understood.

When I realized I had a chance to publish my memoir-in-verse, I split the project in two, so I could focus on the issues my family has recently endured, such as raising a family in graduate school while dealing with postpartum depression and a child recently diagnosed with autism.

Because I love what I do for a living, I will never write about kids I teach. But, I can say working with children who have autism is one thing, but it is a new journey when your child is diagnosed with autism. I have constantly battled trying to be there for my son during this past semester while meeting my commitments for school. When I wanted to attend his diagnosis, some were not happy about the look of even one absence, although it was made up.

Children with autism deserve the dedication of parents, teachers, and those in the community. They deserve for their voices to be heard. They deserve for their parents to make meetings, and for expectations to be set.

What do I have to do?

Let it go. Let go of anger. Learn to live; not survive with sharks, or dolphins that bite.

4. My children make me a better person and writer

I fell in love the moment when I first held both of my children, but when my daughter was born, I wanted to hang back. I wanted to stay with them a little longer. I wanted to hold her to my chest and stroke her black hair longer before it turned to reddish brown.  I wanted to dry my son’s tears because I had another night class. I could not explain to him that other people demanded time; time I  wanted to give back to him and his sister.

5. So, at the end of 2015, I got what I wanted … for a short time at least.

Admit weakness. Admit fear. These are the only ways to move forward from my experience. Then blow and let them go.

I didn’t realize how much I had changed. With the infrequent schedule of an internship, classes, and this due and that due along with commitments to the loves of my life, I transformed.  Since the semester ended, I have been regaining my strength. My husband has said, “I see my wife again.” My parents see their daughter again.

But, I also got to just be a mom, wife and writer.



Take Your Time: Reasons Why

I don’t blog much these days.

In fact, A Word or More has changed over the past four years from blogging twice a week to once a week to whenever I can.

Sometimes, I post a poem – written with raw emotion – like my post the other day about the new struggles in raising a child with autism and sometimes I share what I know about writing.

The truth is I’m not worried about the amount of posts I write, the amount of likes I receive, or the attention because blogging should be something we – as writers – enjoy. It should be fun just like our work.  I realize, in getting away from blogging on a schedule and checking every other day, that it is easy to get into the “how to dos” of blogging and miss out on what is most natural for authors.

Maybe I will go two to three months before I post again, but I’m still writing.

  • I met my goal of being published once this year. Another story from Adventures of Elliot McSwean was published by Alfie Dog in the UK in January/ February 2015.


  • I always set a goal of one story per year. I got lucky in previous years because I was published at rate of three stories per year, but I also submitted more and had more time to write different stories  and poems. I am content with one story per year right now.


  • When I write, I’m putting serious time into three poetic memoirs, or memoirs in verse, because I found the opportunity to improve the original one, Frozen Snowflakes, for possible publication. As I began, I turned a another short memoir into poems instead of essays resembling a prose poetry style.


  • When I write fiction, Adventures of Elliot McSwean remains the main focus because I plan on going from a middle grades story collection to writing a middle grades novel with Elliot McSwean.


  • I’m not a patient person except with writing and children. It seems I pour all of my patience into my professions and passions. I’m okay that it takes me years to write or perfect pieces of work. I spent seven and a half years on my manuscript, Sons of the Edisto. Frozen Snowflakes has been around for four years, but it has changed a lot and nearly had some poems published from the collection. And, I will take my anger poem from the other day, and edit it into something more.


  • Health issues after the birth of my daughter, my son’s diagnosis, family commitments, and the last year of graduate school have all  played a role in when I’m able to write.  I still do.


  • And, I’m grateful to already meet my goal for 2016. That is, I will be published in February 2016.  An academic work, which I co-wrote and researched, will be published under my regular name: Rebecca D. Bridges.

Don’t worry about being in hurry. It’s okay to write like a turtle and edit like a fox (my personal motto). In other words, it’s okay to write slow, and then edit carefully in a manner of hunting for the weaknesses in your writing.

Take your time.

Rebecca T. Dickinson

Together: The Diagnosis


We are learning together.

By we, I mean my husband, Ben, our son, Hayes, and me. Our daughter will learn one day, too, but, for now; the baby is Hayes’s best audience.

Free from it all: from crowds, from being a part of the conveyor belt taking belt buckles for future khaki pants, and from stockings, closed toe heels, and black blazers. From the perfect criss-cross applesauce …

I’m tired of grad school. I just want to stop. It’s like a high speed train going off the rails into mud, flipping over, and cars sliding all around. I’m tired of closing up and holding back because I just want to scream at everyone to “Fuck off.” 

“I don’t know why Hayes would say ‘I hate Ms. _______________,'” a voice said to me. Do I need to explain again? “He thinks in a different way. We have to try to understand his way of thinking and figure out why he is taking some of these actions,” I said.

My grandmother said years ago, “You need to teach in the public school system. You will have more security that way.”  My favorite professor said, “I’ve heard the horror stories coming out of the public schools with special needs children.” 


Years ago, as a journalist, I took up a story about a mother with two sons with ASD.  The school board had shifted around teacher assistants to different school trying to hide the fact that it was cutting teacher assistants’ hours when the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder was on the rise.

The school board gave its assistant district superintendents a raise.


“As future teachers, you will need to watch what you say.” I don’t speak of my profession, but as a mom, I feel like yelling at the top of my lungs.


You might as well ask Why God – if you believe in Him – made us differently.

When my professor took ten points off my assignment making it a B because it was late, and I had taken my son to receive his diagnosis; I wanted to scream.

Ben, Hayes, and I will get through this together.

Yes, I wanted to scream when the professor said, “Everyone has a busy schedule.” Are you fucking kidding me? Did you really just say that, professor of the year?

Ben, Hayes, and I will get though this together because it’s been us since the beginning – since I decided not to get an abortion and leave journalism, five glasses of wine a day, and my ex. Since his family was cool with sweeping shit under the carpet.

Because I know from being a teacher in the field of special education everyday with my game face, with standards, professionalism to brim, and a smile is different than –

being told, “Your son falls on the autism spectrum                                               scale. He sees the world in a different way.”

Angry. No, I’m not angry. I just need to get some lesson plans done, a few projects, and get over the feeling like it’s my son’s fault because instructional time is lost in the classroom, and other people are helping him when it is not their jobs.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” he said to me. 


for my son

Rebecca T. Bridges 

Through Tornadoes

One of the first poems from my memoir in verse currently untitled about raising a child with autism with the man I love.

Through Tornadoes

Let’s sit down on a park bench away from the house, watch the sun set, and Hayes run around. Look at that tree with the big knot in it. Did you know that he has run circles around that same tree since he was two.  I like this part of the park with the peach trees and open space. I bring Hayes here when he’s had a bad day, so he still gets outside, but he doesn’t have the playground and other children to play with. We also come to the Peach Tree park just to walk. I’ve wanted you to come, too, Ben.

Ben, hold my hand because I know the news isn’t easy to hear. You’ve questioned yourself as a father over and over again. Don’t think back to the day when you told the older boys about me, about Hayes, and how you thought they’d never speak to you again. Don’t think: How am I going to do this?  The way we raise Hayes will be different. No, I don’t know what will happen now.

Elevator music on the phone line. Wait five more minutes until someone can           talk. Someone answers and says, “Our office hasn’t yet received your son’s             papers from the doctor.”          

I don’t know all of the answers. What does it mean to raise a child with autism? The doctor said, “He just sees the world differently.” I think, Ben, if your mother was here, she’d tell you, “It will be okay.” Just hold my hand, sweetheart. You overthink like me, and it only makes you depressed. See Hayes run to the tree with a knothole. He picks up a branch. He says, “It’s my walking stick.” Honey, remember only two years ago, he would’ve hit the tree with the branch.

“I guess I just had higher expectations,” you said. “What higher expectations        are you talking about?” I said. “Just because my parents didn’t raise me the          same as yours: to do every chore right then.” “Why are you yelling?” you said.

Carl Sanburg. Yes, you know him. My favorite poet once wrote, “I wish to God I never saw you, Mag./ I wish you never quit your job and came along with me./… I wish the kids had never come/ And rent and coal and clothes to pay for/ And a grocery man calling for cash.” But, there are always groceries, and one day we’ll have a rent or a mortgage to pay for when we get out of my parents’ house.

“Hello, Mrs. Dickinson, this is a call. You are aware you owe back rent at this      time. We’ll move forward to see what we can take.”

You said just the other day, “No one has ever loved me the way you do.” I told you the same. There is no one like you, Ben. Damn, I hate those dreamy-eyed love poems about romance, but you know, Carl Sanburg got something wrong. I’m glad you came, Ben. I’m glad the kids came, too.

Hayes sees the world a different way, and we’ll help him. He has both of us. Honey, look over your shoulder, and see all that has passed. We got through tornadoes holding hands and kissing lips. We’ll go through it again.

Rebecca T. Dickinson

Memoir in Verse

A writing teacher once said everyone works through the bleed on paper stage, especially when you’re a young writer.

I have always believed writing is a powerful tool that can engaged and cure your heart, especially if you’re a person diagnosed with mental illness.

In the past, I’ve been open about my mental illness, depression and struggles in the past with weight, if it could help other people.

And, I tried at the beginning of the year to turn some of my story into a memoir. Anytime I have tried to follow up with my short memoirs: “We Never Said Hello/ Grass From the Grave” – depending on where it has been published – and it’s follow up essay, “The Write Mother,” my memoir attempts did not feel right until I put them into a narrative poetic form.

I had the opportunity to take a second look at my collection, Frozen Snowflakes, in the hope that someone may be interested in publishing it as a chapbook after seeing a new, improved, and updated version of it.  I am editing it from the ground up. It is essentially a memoir in verse about my relationship with my husband and my son’s early years.

As I began editing, I found I had too much to put into one collection, so I now have three memoirs-in-verse. I’ve turned Breastfed – a love story from me, a mother, to my daughter – into a poetic memoir. The second one is a newer collection about a family raising a son with mild autism.

That is what I wish to share with you today. Because through everything as a writer and a graduate student, who has non-stop assignments, my husband – called “Ben” in my memoirs – has been a rock.  He ends up in a lot of my writing because he has always understood the love of my life has been the results of what I write with keyboards and pens. Now we are taking a new journey together as we raise our son recently diagnosed with autism.

Rather than put all of it into one post. I share the poem in a second post today called Through Tornadoes. 

Change it Up: Ways to Change a Poetry Collection and Why

So, I’m not much of a poet. My teacher at the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts summer program thought it was my thing, but really I had to develop better prose.

By college and into my adult years, I got better with short stories. The thing as writers just as with teaching, we have to take criticism. It’s not always comfortable. Right now with my papers, I’m happy with an A – because I have two young children, an internship, and other classes. If something flies by the wayside, I don’t really care. But, I received news of a possible consideration of my collection of poems. I am doing a lot of work to this collection called Fractured Snowflakes. I am stripping it of what I consider crap or what sounds like a younger version of myself as a writer. I need to take out any random rhyme and turn it more into the poems near the end of the collection, prose poems.

They tell the true story about my ex-husband, a little of my career as a journalist, journey through depression, an affair to remember, the breaking apart of a family, and becoming a new one.  The first poem in my collection is called Gray Jacket, and I wrote it in 2006. It originally looked like this in the first two verses:

Are you wearing

your gray jacket?

I am wearing mine.

The silk-thin,

cotton sleeves

cover me

from April’s wind.

I recall a March night

when my toes

turned red

in flip flops.

The wind kept blowing.


in your gray jacket,

made your move.


Gray Jacket

Remember the night when we stood outside and looked at Canterbury Cathedral lit up with lights, and we could see the scaffolds surround the back where workers had done repairs earlier in the week before the last winter rain.

“I don’t want to come,” you had said, so I dragged you to the writers’ meeting inside that nineteen seventies,’ peach-tan building on the campus hill. “They’re writers just like you and me. They offer up the good and bad for every piece. We all stay friends and then go down for pop quiz night at the bar.”

I dragged you out of your smoke-infused state, in your gray jacket, so my friends could hear a piece of what I’d heard when I first met you in our novel class. On that March night, you wore the same orange and gray tie dye shirt, black boots with thick, black strings, and gray jacket. I had hoped you’d read a part of your novel about the Colorado inmate during his last days on death row. But, at least you went, and listened to me and the others.

“It wasn’t so bad,” you said when the meeting was through, and we looked at Canterbury Cathedral lit up with lights, wet black streets, and the old Norman walls the Nazi airplanes had used as guide points during their bombing raids. You shoved the tip of your boot in the grass. In Carolina flip flops, my toes turned red.

The wind kept blowing. You, in your gray jacket, made your move. In the darkness, your lips from under your hood met mine. I didn’t want you to stop. Ten o’clock, eleven, or midnight, who knew? We both had novels to read, classes to attend, and I was to pack for a trip to London with Mimi and Dad. You stopped and kissed my forehead. “I’m not going to tell you, ‘I love you’–” I laughed and said, “Well, no shit!” “You see, these British girls …” you drifted off. “I’m American.” “Okay, but, you’ve made my day.”

I pulled my gray jacket around me, and you called me your girlfriend. You even said I had you “whipped.” I had heard this before, I thought, just with a Southern accent.

Before you said goodbye, your gray sleeves wrapped around mine. We looked again at the cathedral at the center of town. “I’ve seen it all before, but the cathedral seems different now,” I said.

I will go through a few more edits, but never be afraid of change.

The Rain (A Metaphor for Special Education)

I am a firm believer in speaking out.

I have had to pick and choose what I say because of my profession as a teacher, but certain causes deserve attention. For me, those causes include poverty, breastfeeding, and special education. So, today I share I poem I wrote as a metaphor for the needs necessary in public school in special education.


Once I was like a child stepping out in the rain for the first time

without a parent’s guidance. No umbrella, no coat, no boots – 

Just soaked: 

A dance and a jump. I never knew where the rain drops 

would fall, for who tries to discipline rain?


I have walked in the rain in all sorts of ways with those 

who know those particular ways. The I becomes we, and

we tap dance with barefeet to see water splash upon 

rose bushes, to see more water turn a crack in the cement 

into a stream, to watch weeds and grass bend because 

the water pours, comes up from our feet, and swells the ground.


The rain falls in all ways – sideways, straight down, sprinkle, 

with thunder and lightning. We walk through the rain: splashing

through puddles like a game of hopscotch in pink rain boots 

with music notes. We make mini-runs from one shelter to the next

until we reach a door. Open a yellow umbrella and go. 

Run fast to a place away from the storm, floods, and  

a sky lit up with yellow fireworks. 


One time I said, “I don’t like the rain. When will it go away?”

Yes, it was yesterday – before I wandered in rain – I sang, 

”’Rain, rain go away.'” But, the rain does not wait. 

Some people wish they could pick the day like a

business schedule for the rain, but then those people 

never really walk in the rain.


In a new place – when I no longer had those with whom I 

danced in the rain – I met one with the award of a wise man.

In his tie and robe, he said, “You can enjoy the rain. It’s not for me.”

And, it rained. He hurried. I stayed behind in the rain because

I knew the rain fell elsewhere, too, and more wise men and women sing,

“Rain, rain go away.'”

They leave off,

“Come back again another day.”


By Rebecca T. Dickinson